Vass waders – maybe time for a cultural exchange…

Vass LogoSome fly anglers, I know, would be more drawn to a trade catalogue with seagull droppings on the cover than one adorned with coarse fishing imagery. If that’s you, I implore you to hold your nose (you shameless snob) should you be in the market for new waders, and at least give Vass Textile Group some thought.

I owe the Milton Keynes firm an apology. Specialists in waders and rainwear, mainly for the coarse and sea markets, I happened upon their stand at the Farnborough’s ‘Big One’ fishing show in March, and have had their card on my desk all summer, with a view to giving them a mention.

You can quickly develop ‘product fatigue’ at these shows but Vass’s waders, in particular, stopped me in my tracks. I’m no authority on fishing gear but I had a more seasoned angler with me at the show and he confirmed my initial impression that Vass waders had a distinctly ‘top-end’ feel to them, suggesting material that is comfortable yet also laughs in the face of jagged branches. I also recall their price range sounding competitive alongside some of their more specialist flyfishing counterparts.

Before this begins to sound like Alan Partridgesque product placement, I hadn’t heard of Vass before Farnborough, and were I on commission, I certainly wouldn’t have left it five months before writing about them.

My humble opinion is that they are at least worth a look; I’ll leave it at that.

Spool-Minder the answer to lost leader

It’s one of fishing’s mysteries. Wind leader nice and tight on each of those spools in your spool container. Stick the container in your bag and leave it there undisturbed for a week. Then return to find that leader has not only worked itself loose on each spool but has somehow seeped out of the spool bag, leaving the latter looking like it’s been immersed in a spider’s web.

By that stage, the first two feet of leader on each spool are so kinked and coiled as to be good only for early retirement.

This home-made gizmo, while employed on tying thread in this demo, looks like it could be easily adapted to bring that leader nightmare to a close…

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Possibly the best flyfishing blog post you’ll read this week

Flyfishing, etching by

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part nuts-and-bolts guide, part reflection on the wiles of marketing and those of us who fall for them, The Classical Angler has written a fascinating account of how slow-action fly rods were usurped by the busy-bee tempo of the stiff, modern counterpart and how they are gradually making a comeback.

Finally, I know that a stiff rod with slow action is not an oxymoron.

Flyfishing is lucky in this respect, for on a very different sporting playground, I once experimented with a couple of wooden-headed golf clubs that I suspect had been built not long after hickory was replaced by metal when it came to the club’s shaft.

Slow-action? Reach the top of your backswing with those whippy antiques and you could have poured yourself a Martini in the time it took for the clubhead to embark languidly on its return journey.  Had I ever been able to make the club’s unwinding coincide with the head’s impact with the ball, I’m sure the latter would have travelled some way but it was a timing exercise tantamount to catching lightning in a bottle.

With the exception of a few nostalgics who continue to play with hickory-shafted clubs for old times’ sake, golf’s past is past where clubs are concerned, yet fly anglers can still switch from one generation of rod manufacture to another and find their fishing enhanced for more than merely sentimental reasons, as The Classical Angler has explained so inspiringly.

“Now the generation of anglers that have never tasted this wine need to have the courage to question things, and pick up a rod like the Orvis Superfine Touch or Superfine Glass, and see what has been hidden behind the yellow curtain all these years.

Soft rods are coming back, and like the LP, the sound will be like nothing else since.”

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Revolutionary Free-Flex rod draws a blank so far with experts

Pressure of space meant that we couldn’t run this in the latest issue of the magazine, so it falls upon the TF blog to host some initial feedback to the latest thing in flyrod design from Norwegian company ArcticSilver. As reported on the TF news page last month, the Free-Flex rod aims to release power in the blank during casting by freeing up the butt section – instead of the latter being encased within a straitjacket of the conventional cork handle, it sits in a ‘tunnel’ formed by the handle, with a gap between the latter and the blank, whose only point of attachment is to the reel seat. ArcticSilver explain their thinking on the firm’s website:

“The blanks on a fly rod is designed to bend and is charged with energy during casting. On traditional rods the handle is glued to the blanks precisely where the power potential is greatest. It goes without saying that a handle that is glued with hardening adhesive to the bottom portion of the blanks inhibits tensioning. This simple fact was the starting point for ArcticSilver’s product development. We wanted to create a rod where the blank’s entire power potential could be exploited.

“On ArcticSilver’s Free Flex rods the handle is not glued to the blanks. The result is a blanks that is charged easier, a rod that bends freely down the reel seat and gives you more punch and feeling with less use of force. All of the talented fly casters who have tried our rods, have given us the same, positive feedback: Free Flex rods are working right down into the palm of the hand, they have a deeper action, providing increased range and greater feeling.”

We ran ArcticSilver’s thinking past three men who are no stranger to the form and function of fly rods: rod-builders David Norwich and Chris Ward and casting instructor Mike Marshall. ‘Underwhelmed’ would be a fair summary of their initial reaction.

“The mechanics and physics don’t add up to any valid improvement in fly rod design,” said Norwich. “Other than an unusual (ugly?) design for the handle, it doesn’t say much about the rod blank construction or overall performance. Changing the handle configuration is going to do nothing if the basic blank is poorly designed. They talk in very insubstantial ways about the blanks, as though all fly rod blanks will benefit from using their system. I just don’t see how.

“You would get the same performance gain – if there was any to be gained, which is doubtful – by doing away with the normal handle in front of the reel seat and fitting a short handle below the reel seat, thus allowing the blank to flex freely from that point as they are claiming the system allows. To what performance gain though?”

Chris Ward felt ArcticSilver’s sales blurb raised several questions that needed answering before the benefits of their design could be properly assessed:

“They do not state how or where the blank is held into the new ‘grip system’. Consider how a blank can rotate/twist/turn during a cast.  On this new system is the blank a push fit in the grip? Or is it glued into the grip to stop it twisting?  Answer that and you will know how much of a benefit the idea has.  Clearly, on their video, the grips are longitudinal segments from the reel seat to an end point, and clearly the hand holds these segments ‘closed’ on to the blank during the ‘grip’.  What cannot be ascertained from a video alone, however, is the question of how durable the grip material is, whether the blank moving around in the upper elements of the segments will wear the grip from the inside out, or whether there is a risk of pieces of hand/skin/finger getting caught between the segments as your hand grips them.

“Logically, what they are saying has some truth in it: anything fixed or glued to any blank with impede the action of that blank.  More than once they talk about ‘hard setting glues’.  From my limited knowledge of resins, however, there are many different animals out there, each with specific properties.  Some set like concrete and are hard and brittle, while others set ‘hard’ but retain a degree of flexibility.  For example, I use a specific two-part resin which retains flexibility when set under reel seats so the blank can flex, probably not as much as it would naturally but positively more than if glued with other products.”

Speaking for the ‘end-user’, meanwhile, Mike Marshall wonders if the design will actually work against its stated goals:

“You never want the rod to wobble or have too much freedom at its butt end; that, if anything, dissipates the rod’s power rather than enhancing it. The progressive stiffness of the blank from tip to butt is the key factor, not its mobility. I can also see this design aggravating tendonitis rather than avoiding it.”

Some people can’t even wait to load a reel as opening day nears…

I’m sure they’re all champing at the bit as trout season approaches Down Under but this…?!

Spear siezed [sic] on trout stream

Under-stated money quote…

“…the weapon was seized without incident, but Fish & Game consider it a serious matter to find someone with a spear near a stream closed to protect spawning trout”

I’m relieved to hear it. This is precisely why my own spear stays indoors at least until Easter’s behind us.

Do click on the link within the article, to photos of a slightly nonplussed Game Officer, Anthony van Dorp, in ‘Maasai warrior’ mode.

This was inevitable the moment Tenkara hit a mass audience, I suppose. You come up with one way of short-circuiting the process and it’s only a matter of time before the envelope gets pushed even further.

We’re now effectively down to a rod with a sharp end, no reel and no fly. And a whole new meaning to the the term ‘New Zealand-style‘.

Jim Hardy – no flowers, just buy the DVD…

Jim Hardy will no doubt have been remembered for many remarkable things since his death at 85, earlier this month. The one I will remember him for is that his epitaph was up and running a full four years before he died.

If you haven’t seen The Lost World of Mr Hardy yet, I urge you to do so. Nothing like the corporate puffery I expected, it is rather a moving tribute to an era lost forever, played out against a musical score that tugs at every nostalgic fibre in your body.

In a modern era bloated with self-aggrandisement, there are many who witter on about their ‘legacy’, far fewer who genuinely leave one. Jim Hardy – the moustachioed gentleman last seen poignantly disappearing round a corner in the following clip – takes his place firmly in the latter category.